BIRMINGHAM — A Northville man has been arrested in connection with several church donation thefts around metro Detroit, including an incident at Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham.
Anton Nrecah, 30, has been charged with larceny from a building, a four-year felony. Cmdr. Terry Kiernan, of the Birmingham Police Department, said Nrecah is expected to be charged in similar cases in West Bloomfield Township, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Northville and Plymouth Township.
Police have been looking for a suspect who entered Holy Name Feb. 22 and pretended to kneel and pray at the church’s altars. The suspect is believed to have pried open donation boxes by the altars and stolen the cash inside.
The incident was the second of its kind at Holy Name this year, and the church had recently upgraded its video surveillance equipment. The high-tech footage provided a clear shot of the suspect for police to distribute to the public.
A former acquaintance of Nrecah’s identified him from the photo and immediately called Birmingham detectives, according to police. Kiernan said that with that tip, they were able to match the surveillance image with Nrecah’s photo from the Michigan Secretary of State. They located him at his residence in Northville April 3, where, Kiernan said, he confessed to the crime.
“That’s the wave of the future now,” said Kiernan. “Everyone has a cellphone with a camera, and most places have cameras. We’ve got cameras in the uptown that we’ve utilized before (to catch suspects).”
Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus said that although he can’t confirm whether Nrecah was the suspect who matched the description of the person responsible in the larceny of a church donation box March 31 at the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament, located in Farmington Hills, he said there could be a tie. The suspect reportedly removed a donation box from the front counter of the church and left the scene.
“We believe that the cases are linked with all the other church box break-ins,” Nebus said.
The Farmington Hills Police Department released photos of a man suspected of stealing the church donation box in an attempt to gain public help in identifying the suspect. The Farmington Hills Police Department had also issued a crime alert bulletin to all Farmington Hills houses of worship.
A representative of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament did not respond for comment by press time.
It’s unknown how much cash was taken from the donation boxes at Holy Name, since church employees weren’t able to count it before it was stolen.
“He says it was only a couple bucks, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it was a quarter — it’s still a four-year felony,” said Kiernan.
During his confession, police say that Nrecah admitted to taking the money to fuel a drug addiction.
Nrecah was arraigned in 48th District Court and was transported to Oakland County Jail. Bond was set at $20,000, cash surety/10 percent. He’s scheduled to be back in court for a preliminary exam before Judge Diane D’Agostini at 9:30 a.m. April 15.
“We’re still gathering information in regards to the case. We’ll address it at the appropriate time,” said Nrecah’s appointed attorney, Victor Mansour.
Staff Writer Sherri Kolade contributed to this report.
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